The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya photo stars-3_zpsdbd867b4.gifA bamboo cutter find a tiny nymph inside a plant stalk. The child grows at a rapid rate into a beautiful young woman, desired by many. The Tale of The Princess Kaguya is the latest offering from Studio Ghibli. This is rumored to be Director Isao Takahata‘s swan song who hasn’t directed a film since 1999’s My Neighbors the Yamadas. You’re forgiven if you don’t remember that one. He co-founded the legendary Japanese animation house with long-time collaborative partner Hayao Miyazaki. Savvy moviegoers will likewise remember Miyazaki’s farewell The Wind Rises.

The animation is unlike the majority of what is being produced today. The look is reminiscent of the delicate approach of pre-war Japanese watercolor artists.  Hand drawn minimalist style – read unfinished – recalls the preliminary sketch cartoons that Disney commissions before making the actual feature. You know the ones. They’re often featured in the DVD extras in those behind-the-scenes featurettes. It is steadfastly old fashioned when compared with the cartoons of today. In fact the visuals have a traditional quality that make linking it to our contemporary times seem like an anachronism.  Takahata certainly doesn’t rely on comic relief either.  The saga is taken from an ancient Japanese text so it makes the timeless design most appropriate.  The story’s seeming existence in another time and place is one of its most positive attributes.

There is a magical credibility to the drama which is based on The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, a Japanese fable.  Princess Kaguya has moments of genuine poignancy. There are also long stretches where the languid narrative is simply allowed to rest. There’s something admirable about an account that is unconcerned by time.  It’s akin to watching the undulating ripples of a pond. If gazing at the quiet beauty of nature can captivate you for 2 ½ hours this will surely enchant your senses.

The chronicle is a legend full of fanciful flourishes that myths are known to have. Princess Kaguya is a mysterious protagonist compete with a secret back-story like the heroine of any good yarn. However she isn’t a particularly warm person. When her childhood friend Sutemaru is beaten in front of her, she does nothing to help him.  She gives would-be suitors false hope by demanding they fetch items to court her favor. The kicker is she has no interest in any of these men to begin with, so her requests are for impossible to get items. One even dies in the process. At least Kaguya gets depressed about it. At first she seems to praise the simple value of her previous country life over her more exalted existence in the big city, but then the fantastical ending kind of throws that idea out the window. Fairy tales always have a moral and I’m sure this one is no exception. I just have no idea what that is given the bizarre resolution. I still enjoyed The Tale of The Princess Kaguya. It’s different and that’s saying something in today’s cookie cutter world.


8 Responses to “The Tale of The Princess Kaguya”

  1. Not bad. A lot of good ideas, but way too long. My eyes couldn’t take it. At an hour and a half, this coulda been great. 2 hrs 16 minutes …geesh.


  2. “There’s something admirable about an account that is unconcerned by time. It’s akin to watching the undulating ripples of a pond. If gazing at the quiet beauty of nature can captivate you for 2 ½ hours this will surely enchant your senses.” I don’t think I’d like this movie simply based on these few sentences of your review. I’m not big on the outdoors, nature, or animated films with obscenely long running times. I’ve always thought of myself as more of an “indoor cat” haha.


  3. smilingldsgirl Says:

    This is in my top 20 animated films of all time although it took me several viewings to go from like to love.
    I love the way it uses music with the art and how simple it is. It is a tale of good intentions gone wrong and the price of obedience even to parents.


    • Perhaps a re-watch is in order. I found the main character to be cold and unlikable. It was a hard story for me to embrace, although the artistry of the picture is undeniable.

      Liked by 1 person

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        I admit it’s a challenging film but she’s a character who gives in to her father every time to the crushing of her spirit. That’s why when she finally bursts free it’s such a triumphant moment. It’s kind of like a Terrence Mallick movie in a way. I wish I could watch it with you and share with you why I find it so special.


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